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‘Apocalyptic’ heat wave sweeps through US Southwest, straining power systems

Published: Updated:

An extreme heat wave that has already shattered temperature records across the US Southwest threatened on Friday to push power systems to the brink of failure as residents cranked up air conditioners.

California power grid operators, who have so far been able to keep the lights on, issued their latest “flex alert” for Friday, asking homeowners across the state to conserve energy in the late afternoon and evening when demand surges.

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The heat, which comes amid years of drought across the Southwest, has strained power grids in California and Texas and fueled the spread of wildfires.

“It feels somewhat apocalyptic with the record high heat, the smoke from wildfires tearing through the Sonoran desert and the news on the drought,” said Emily Kirkland, a communications organizer for a Phoenix nonprofit group. “Just the 10-minute walk from my house to the light rail made me queasy.”

The National Weather Service has issued excessive heat warnings for five states - California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and parts of Colorado - warning that temperatures soaring well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) can be dangerous.

“Very hot conditions will continue for interior areas through Saturday, followed by gradual cooling into next week. Until then, USE CAUTION as heat can be deadly! Most importantly, stay hydrated and never leave kids or pets in a hot car!!” the National Weather Service station for Los Angeles said on Twitter.

The heat wave extended to the Midwest, prompting weather services to issue advisories for Kansas, Missouri and Illinois, before a strong cold front brings relief by the end of the weekend. Temperatures in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, were forecast to top 100 degrees on Friday.

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